A small shrine located along the scenic Eizan train line, Miyake Hachimangū is one of many shrines to worship Hachiman, the god of war and protector of the country. Known particularly for safeguarding the health of children, this shrine also stands out for its numerous doves and dove imagery scattered about the grounds on account of the bird being revered as Hachiman’s divine messenger. Tucked away in a charming green patch of old Kyoto neighborhood, this shrine is a nice spot to visit if you have prayers for a child’s health in mind, or happen to fancy birds.
This shrine in particular has a reputation as a guardian for children, known for curing childhood diseases and night crying.
The Hachiman deity’s divine messenger is the common rock dove/pigeon. In place of the lion dogs that usually guard the entrances to shrines, Miyake Hachimangū boasts a pair of round stone doves by their torii gate. Looking at the stone lanterns that can be found scattered about the grounds you will also notice a pigeon motif in raised stone on many of them. The ema (votive tablets) at this shrine also feature illustrations of a pair of colorful clay pigeons which can be obtained at the shrine office. These clay pigeons should be placed in a home altar or on a high spot at your home, and returned to the shrine in thanks after your children are grown. If you go to the main hall to pray you will see the pigeons left behind by other grateful parishioners. For those who want their fortunes told, you can also purchase cute white pigeons that contain an omikuji fortune inside.
While enjoying the stone, clay, and painted pigeons here at Miyake Hachimangū, you surely won’t miss… the actual pigeons! Sometimes found perched on shrine roofs or circling overhead, these pigeons can be fed if you like. Located in a small cabinet across from the shrine office are colorful plastic bowls filled with oats for the birds, and they can be purchased for 50 yen a bowl. Drop your coins in and take a portion and watch the birds hone in on a new friend.
Ema Votive Tablet Archive
For 300 yen paid at the amulet reception area you can be shown the way to the shrine’s Ema Shiryōkan (Ema Votive Tablet Archive). Inside the hall is displayed about half of the shrine’s 124 ema that earned the status of Important Tangible Folk Cultural Properties. The oldest ema, depicting young children playing games and busy with toys, was donated to the shrine all the way back in 1852 (Kaei 5) - that is, a year before Commodore Perry arrived in Japan. You may notice many ema showing a line of parishioners making a pilgrimage, their names along the side, and the shrine’s divine messengers, pigeons, painted charmingly on the votive tablets. There are even some ema created not by painting, but by using fabric!
As with all Hachimangū shrines, Miyake Hachimangū enshrines the deity Hachiman, the divinity considered to hold sway over the domains of war and protection of the country. The Hachiman deity is considered to have once been Emperor Ōjin, the legendary 15th emperor.
This shrine in particular has a reputation as a guardian for children, known for curing childhood diseases and night crying. Because it was believed in the medieval period that diseases and bad behavior were caused by a sort of insect, the shrine also is known for its mushi fūji (“insect sealing”) prayers.
According to shrine legend, Miyake Hachimangū was founded in the 7th century. When Prince Shōtoku, the regent of Empress Suiko, sent Ono no Imoko to the Sui dynasty court in China as envoy in 607, the ambassador fell sick in Kyūshū before setting sail. Going to the nearby Usa Hachimangū shrine to pray, Ono no Imoko not only recovered fully, but was successful in his mission to China and returned safely. After Prince Shōtoku’s death, Ono no Imoko moved his residence to the Kamitakano area, and there prayed to receive the Hachiman deity, establishing a place of worship out of gratitude for his prayers being answered in the past.
During the 14th century, Bingo Saburo Miyake Takanori, the progenitor of the Miyake clan and a loyal servant of the southern imperial court came to live in the same area, and the shrine eventually became known as Miyake Hachimangū.
Though the shrine was completely destroyed in the flames of the Ōnin War (1467 – 1477), it was revived fully by the locals by 1850. It is said that when the Meiji emperor was a child he came down with a severe illness that was healed after prayers were offered at Miyake Hachimangū.
September 14th – 16th